How To Use Unique Plants In The Garden

by Amanda

Unique Plants - echinops

Echinops is one of our favorite unique perennials. The fantastic globe-shaped flowers attract a parade of pollinators to the summer garden.

Although we all love the classic look that Daylilies, Hostas, and more bring to the landscape, there’s something exciting about trying new, unique varieties that can’t be found at the garden center. These unique plants create instant focal points and are often a conversation piece for visitors to the garden.

The Benefits Of Unique Plants

Have you heard the saying that people are supposed to fear the unknown? This logic should be thrown right out the window in gardening. It’s fun to embrace new, unique plants you may never have heard of. It’s also a great challenge as a gardener to take something you’ve never tried before and make it at home in your landscape. Unique plants have many, many benefits to both the expert and novice gardener:

You can’t find them everywhere. Many unique varieties can't be found in the big garden centers, as they may require horticultural expertise at their earliest stages. Look to reliable mail-order sites that employ knowledgeable staff at their greenhouses. To find varieties that set your garden apart from your friends’ and neighbors', you'll need to look beyond the big box stores!

They are easy to grow. A common misconception for hard-to-find varieties is that they are tricky and high maintenance. This just isn’t true! While getting them started may require non-traditional techniques, these varieties are just as easy to grow as any other perennials or bulbs you’ve worked with. You’ll just need to pay close attention to the planting details.

Many are deer resistant. This is a big one! Many of the unique varieties we sell are deer and rabbit resistant. This makes them a great choice for planting outside a fence for a bold statement or anywhere you have pesky critters.

hellstrip gardening - wildflowers

Red Hot Poker stands out among classic Geranium, Hosta, and Catmint.

  1. Purple Liatris spicata, Liatris spicata, Blazing Star

    Blazing Star is an unforgettable native perennial with electric purple flowers. Known for its grass-like foliage and tall, spiky blooms that attract butterflies, birds and bees, Blaz...

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    Blazing Star Blazing Star Liatris spicata
    $10.65 Sale $8.52
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Blazing Star is an unforgettable native perennial with electric purple flowers. Known for its grass-like foliage and tall, spiky blooms that attract butterflies, birds and bees, Blazing Star (sometimes called Gayfeather) makes a great cut flower and is deer resistant. Plant with Bee Balm and Black Eyed Susan for a vibrant, colorful garden. (Liatris spicata)
  2. Indian Pink, Spigelia marilandica with hummingbird

    Indian Pink is an easy-to-grow native woodland perennial which prefers moist and well-drained soils. The unusual blooms are trumpet shaped with a red exterior, yellow inside, and a u...

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    Indian Pink Indian Pink Spigelia marilandica
    $12.65 Sale $10.75
    Per Bag of 3
    Indian Pink is an easy-to-grow native woodland perennial which prefers moist and well-drained soils. The unusual blooms are trumpet shaped with a red exterior, yellow inside, and a unique flare at the top that forms a star shape. This woodland plant has glossy green foliage and spreads easily. Grows in part sun to full shade. (Spigelia marilandica)
  3. Eupatorium Baby Joe, Joe Pye Weed with Coreopsis

    'Baby Joe' Dwarf Joe Pye Weed is the solution for butterfly lovers short on space in the garden. This compact variety grows to a manageable 2-3’ tall and limits its spread. 'Baby J...

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    Baby Joe Dwarf Pye Weed Dwarf Pye Weed Baby Joe PP#20320 Eupatorium dubium Baby Joe PP#20320
    $9.32 Sale $7.46
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    'Baby Joe' Dwarf Joe Pye Weed is the solution for butterfly lovers short on space in the garden. This compact variety grows to a manageable 2-3’ tall and limits its spread. 'Baby Joe' has gorgeous purple blooms that add sweet fragrance to the late-season garden, supplying butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees with vital nectar. Deer resistant. (Eupatorium dubium) PP#20320
  4. Jack In The Pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum

    Jack in the Pulpit boasts unusual, hooded green blooms with burgundy-striped interiors that surround an upright spadix, known as the “Jack” inside each flower. Blooms evolve to ...

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    Jack in the Pulpit Jack in the Pulpit, Cobra Lily Arisaema triphyllum
    $13.32 Sale $11.32
    Per Bag of 3
    Jack in the Pulpit boasts unusual, hooded green blooms with burgundy-striped interiors that surround an upright spadix, known as the “Jack” inside each flower. Blooms evolve to produce brilliantly-red berries. A truly stunning, unique plant for the shade garden, Jack in the Pulpit can reproduce and spread over time in moist soils. (Ariseama triphyllum)

Add A Focal Point With Unique Plants

Unique Plants - Crocosmia

This Crocosmia planted with classic Hydrangea elevates the garden to something unique and professional-looking.

Unique plants are an easy way to add a showy focal point to the garden, especially if you’re working with a small landscape. If your garden space is limited, plant unique varieties like spikey-bloomed Sea Holly, or low-growing Anemones to create a big, bold statement. Even if you choose just one unique variety for your small space garden and fill in the rest with classic favorites, that one focal point will go a long way in elevating your garden.

The same principle goes for larger gardens; if you’re looking to create a focal point in your garden, add a unique and conversation-worthy variety. For larger spaces, you may want to plant a grouping of 5 or more plants to add that “wow” factor and not let the unique variety get lost in the rest of your garden.

Create Symmetry And Cohesion With Unique Plants

Unique Plants - Anemones

Anemones are a low-growing bulb that can be planted both in the spring and fall. The colorful blooms are deer resistant and great for small space gardens.

Unique plants can also be used in existing garden beds to create symmetry and cohesion. This is an easy way to achieve a professionally-designed look in your garden beds. Choose one or more unique varieties and plant them in groupings (3-5), repeating the same throughout your garden beds. You can do this with almost any perennial variety, but unique plants instantly make your garden stand out.

When you use plants to add cohesion to the garden, you have several options.

  • You can plant them in groupings randomly throughout the garden. Or, you can choose to add them in the center and flanking both ends of the garden for a more symmetrical look. The choice is up to you and your garden style.
  • If you’re looking for a more formal look, you may want to use symmetry in your groupings.
  • If you prefer a wild or informal garden, simply placing the groupings throughout the garden will help to add the cohesion you're looking for.

Unique Plants For Woodland Areas

Unique Plants - shooting star

Shooting Star is a native perennial that thrives in shade to partial sun, offering up delicate white, lavender, or pink blooms in the spring months. The smaller size makes it perfect for a small space shade garden.

If you want to create a big statement in your shade garden, there are a variety of unique plants that thrive in wet, shady areas. These are a great alternative (or addition) to the classic Bleeding Hearts, Hostas, and Ferns that often fill in the shade garden. Many of these woodland plants are native and bloom very early in the season, extending the interest in your garden.

  • Jack in the Pulpit’s uniquely-shaped foliage and brilliant red berries make this a fantastic early spring beauty.
  • Black Cohosh is a native woodland that gets to be 8’ tall and boasts tall, white spiky blooms.
  • Shooting Star is a brilliant native perennial that offers produces unusual pointed blooms in the spring garden.
  • Foam Flower’s white, feathery blooms add texture and interest to the early spring garden. Get creative and add some of these hard-to-find varieties in your shade garden to make it the star of your landscape.

Experiment With Unique Plants

Unique Plants - sea holly

Sea Holly is a fantastic easy-to-grow perennial. The blooms are so intruiging!

Whether you’re gardening in a city or have a lot of land, have fun in your garden and experiment with unique varieties. You'll enjoy the big statement that these unique varieties add almost instantly. And you'll definitely enjoy the compliments and conversations that arise when visitors spot the hard-to-find varieties in your landscape.

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